News and Press Releases

Couple Admits forcing Moroccan niece to work long hours for no pay

September 7, 2006

ABDENASSER ENNASSIME, a/k/a “SAMMY,” 47, and TONYA ENNASSIME, 41, of Lakewood, Pierce County, Washington pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to charges stemming from their mistreatment of their niece, a juvenile. ABDENASSER ENNASSIME pleaded guilty to Forced Labor, and his wife, TONYA ENNASSIME pleaded guilty to Concealing and Harboring an Alien.

According to the plea agreements, the girl was 12-years-old when she came to the United States from Morocco in September 2001. She attended school for only a short time. Instead, the ENNASSIMEs required her to perform a rigorous daily schedule of housework and childcare, while also working at the ENNASSIME’s coffee shop “Lake City Perk.” ENNASSIME withdrew the girl from school and forced her to work at the coffee shop twelve to fourteen hours a day. ABDENASSER ENNASSIME failed to pay any wages to the girl for her work in the home or at the coffee shop, and even confiscated the girl’s share of the tips. According to the plea agreement the family took a month-long trip to Morocco and left the young girl to run the latte stand fourteen hours a day, seven days a week.

The girl had entered the United States on a visitor’s visa in September 2001 which expired six months later. The ENNASSIMEs neglected to seek an extension of the visa yet continued to require the girl to live with them in their home at 6905 Hillgrove Lane Southwest in Lakewood, Washington. ABDENASSER ENNASSIME used the expired visa as a threat against the girl, frequently reminding her that she was illegally in the country, and threatened that if she did not work harder and longer, he would call the authorities and have her deported.

With the assistance of friends and an immigrant rights group, the girl was able to escape on July 9, 2005.

Under the terms of the plea agreements, the government will ask that both ENNASSIMEs serve six months of home detention and be on probation for three years. During that probation they will be closely monitored by the U.S. Probation Office, particularly with respect to their employment of domestic workers. The agreement also requires them to pay $65,226.65 in back wages to their niece. The couple is scheduled for sentencing on December 1, 2006.

The case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant United States Attorneys Jill Otake and Ye-Ting Woo prosecuted the case. For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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